The Evil Empire

As most readers know, I travel to Pittsburgh every year to see our beloved Steelers.  I usually aim for back to back home games so I get to see two games. When the schedule came out this year, there was only one game I wanted to travel for. I needed to be in Pittsburgh to see the Evil Empire fall.

Patriots fans love to brag they own the Steelers. Those wins include last year’s when Jesse James’ game winning touchdown was controversially taken away.

I wanted to see the Patriots lose and the smug mantle that their fans wear just eroded a touch. Originally, I was going to be in Pittsburgh by myself although that’s never a problem because I have friends there.

It changed during the summer when I met my Australian friend Scott for a beer while he was visiting. He said he wanted to go to the game to celebrate his 40th birthday.

The challenge now was to obtain two tickets together as they had been on sale for a while. That’s where friends come in handy and Jennifer Bertetto did us proud by giving us two.

When you visit Pittsburgh for a game there is always more than 60 minutes of football to enjoy. On Friday evening we saw the Penguins beat the Bruins. Saturday morning was a tour of Heinz Field.

SteelerNationUnite (SNU) organised a pre-game party on the Saturday night when Arthur Moats and Merril Hoge made appearances. Hoge won SNUK’s 1990 MVP award so it was interesting to talk to him it about it. He said he still had it.

Everyone in the bar was given an opportunity to have their photo taken with him. There was a free raffle with autographed shirts and various other Steelers memorabilia as prizes. The bar was buzzing and it made for a great evening before the game.

Tailgating

Some of SNUK, Sam Leech and Ross Markley,  were out tailgating with the locals at midday. That’s a bit too early for me. Even so, we still went down to the stadium about one o’clock for a 4.25 kickoff. The subway was packed and when we emerged out into the Northside, the car parks were coming alive with the tailgaters.

We had received several invites to join the large number of organised tailgate parties. You normally pay about $20 for food and drink. There are also “private” tailgate parties where friends will gather around a barbecue to shoot the breeze and play outdoor games and even throw a football.

Everyone is having fun and enjoying themselves before the main event. Scott joined in the pregame spirit while I wandered off to take photos of the pre-game festivities. It is interesting to watch the fans mix from both teams mix and enjoy the jamboree.

I was called back by Scott to join the Mexican party I had enjoyed the previous year. They have their own band to serenade the revellers. It was also another photo opportunity for Steeler Nation from around the world with the UK, Australia and Mexico partying together.

I personally didn’t drink anything outside the stadium. The whole purpose of my visit was to see a football game and I intended to see that with a clear head. So we went off to the stadium to leave the revellers to carry on enjoying themselves.

The setting made me wonder if the Romans indulged themselves outside the Coliseum before the gladiators performed.

The Evil Empire Falls.